Billy Crystal says he’d consider a return as Oscar host — if some changes are made to the show.
The eight-time Academy Awards host said he was moved by his warm reception at last month’s ceremony and that “it might be fun” to host the show again.
“I think the show needs to change,” he said. “There’s too many awards and it has to sort of freshen itself up, and if I can be a part of that, that would be great.”
The 63-year-old entertainer made the comments Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press as he prepared to join longtime friend Muhammad Ali at Saturday’s Celebrity Fight Night in Phoenix. Crystal is set to introduce the Champ, who hosts the annual fundraising event to support the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and research toward a cure.
Reba McEntire will serve as emcee for the 17th annual Celebrity Fight Night, which will feature appearances by Ali and Halle Berry and performances by Matchbox Twenty, Kelly Clarkson and Bret Michaels, among others.
Crystal and Ali have been close personal friends since 1974, when they met at one of the comedian’s first televised gigs.
Crystal said he “was a substitute schoolteacher during the day and being a comedian at night” when he was invited to appear at an event where Ali was the guest of honor.
The comedian opened with his impression of sports reporter Howard Cosell, then began imitating Ali.
“He went berserk. He couldn’t stop laughing,” Crystal recalled. “And he starts playing with me. He’s putting the napkin over his head, he’s jabbing me with jabs… He grabbed me afterward and said, ‘You’re my little brother,’ and it’s been that way for all these years now.”
Crystal has appeared at Fight Night several times, said event founder Jimmy Walker.
“Muhammad Ali considers Billy as one of his best and most loyal friends,” Walker said. “They have quite a history together doing many things for each other.”
Though Parkinson’s disease has diminished Ali’s ability to speak, “he has an amazing, booming voice even in his silence,” Crystal said.
When Crystal returns from his weekend appearances in Phoenix, he’ll resume work on his movie projects: A big-screen adaptation of his “700 Sundays” show to be directed by Barry Levinson, and a Fox feature about what happens when grandparents are left in charge of the grandkids for the first time.
And he’ll wait to see if the Academy calls.